You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson

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You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson

Category: Biography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: Part biography of Michael Jackson from his childhood to sudden death in 2009, part family memoir, by the singer's elder brother.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 446 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007435661

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It is inevitable that the books we have already seen about Michael Jackson in the two years since his sudden passing will be merely the tip of the iceberg. Yet for those which comprise and are based on first-hand knowledge of his life and death, there will surely be few if any to rival this account by his brother Jermaine and ghostwriter Steve Dennis.

Born in 1954, nearly four years before Michael, Jermaine was the only other one of the brothers to enjoy any major success in a solo career. The negative press about the family as a whole, as well as about several of the individuals, has been overpowering. Everything that was thrown against Michael himself is too well-know to need recounting here, and as for the allegations that Jermaine was jealous of his kid brother’s success – well, let’s not take sides on that.

Putting all that aside, what we have is a genuinely moving and heartfelt account of Michael’s life, interwoven with the story of the family and of the talented siblings who were encouraged by their parents to make their career in showbusiness. A few of the early stories were familiar to me after reading Michael’s Moonwalk, but Jermaine puts it all into better context and goes far deeper. Chapter one opens with a charming picture of Michael aged four, looking out of the bedroom window on Christmas Eve at the snow, softly singing Jingle Bells to himself. It was Jermaine’s first memory of hearing the voice which would create the world’s biggest-selling pop album of all time. There are several more charming glimpses of life within the close-knit family, prior to their signing with Motown Records at the end of the 1960s.

Soon there came the inevitable peaks, troughs and even family differences. Much soul-searching occurred when all the brothers but Jermaine wanted to leave Motown and sign to another record label which would allow them more artistic freedom, yet as the son-in-law of company boss Berry Gordy, Jermaine was unable to make the move, thus causing a temporary rift in the ranks. The road to the phenomenally successful Thriller in 1982 was a bumpy one for all of them.

By its nature, of course, success never lasts. From the accident and severe burns that Michael sustained while filming a commercial for Pepsi in 1984, his career seemed to have been jinxed. Jermaine chronicles it all with sensitivity, as we read of Michael’s depression and loneliness after his brothers married, the ‘Wacko Jacko’ nickname coined by the media, endless business problems, the failure of his brief marriage to Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie, extortion rackets emanating from the parents of children Michael - ""always a kid at heart"" - had befriended, the disguises he wore in order to find a little privacy from the paparazzi, the diagnosis of vitiligo, a skin complaint, and then lupus, an auto-immune disease, and much more. Taken as a whole, it makes for pretty sombre reading. So does Jermaine’s account of the controversy over Word To The Badd, the song he recorded in 1991 which was clearly an attack on Michael. While he manages to present the whole unsavoury episode as a foolish indiscretion in which he was manipulated by others, the fact that he actually sang those lyrics in the first place was a gross miscalculation which cost him dearly. We are left with the impression that the wounds were not healed for a long time (phone calls and messages never returned surely tell their own story), yet all credit is due to Jermaine for not merely airbrushing it out of the story.

Nevertheless, when Michael’s problems escalated, the last new album Invincible suffered partly from a lack of promotion and partly from the general fallout after the 9/11 terrorist attack, with a tour planned for 2002 and then cancelled, and worst of all when the child molestation charges led to him going on trial. It is heartening to read that the family rallied round in his hour of need, and although he was acquitted, the case evidently left him a broken man. The final pages, surrounding his preparation and rehearsals for the This Is It tour despite his visibly declining health, make harrowing reading for the most part.

Jermaine has naturally told the whole story from a perspective which nobody outside the family could. The rags-to-riches saga, the controversies, the decline, the sibling togetherness and rivalry, are woven together in this compelling account, and the text is complemented by two sections of plates from the family albums. I approached the book with an open mind, feeling that there were many questions unanswered about the whole Michael Jackson saga. Most of them have been answered in these pages. Although one would hardly expect any different from a book written by his brother, an excellent case is made for the theory that while the King of Pop may have acted unwisely, he was innocent of many if not all of the allegations which his detractors threw at him. Much of it can be ascribed to naivety, and for someone who became a star at the age of ten, living in a world of artifice ever since, it could hardly have been otherwise.

The Jackson family story will always be a controversial one, and disentangling fact from fiction will probably be a never-ending process. Yet I expect this will probably get as close to the real story, if not closer, than any other.

Our thanks to Harper Collins for sending Bookbag a review copy.

For part of the story through the main subject’s eyes (significantly written long before the court case, and thus not dealing with any controversial material), may we also recommend the man’s own memoirs, Moonwalk by Michael Jackson.

Buy You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Are Not Alone: Michael Through A Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson at Amazon.com.


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